We all know history has a habit of repeating itself, but the fact that we find ourselves in a global pandemic almost exactly 100 years after the last major one feel almost too on the nose.
While the coronavirus outbreak differs from the Spanish flu pandemic in some important ways, there are also some striking similarities. The same uncertainty of how to handle it. The same differences of opinion on how bad it could get. The difference now is that we have a whole lot more science to help us figure it all out—but also a massive information machine that feeds off of people's misunderstandings of how science works and makes it easy for misinformation to spread like wildfire.
But it can be eye-opening to look at historical documentation of a similar event, especially through photographs depicting the details of daily life. As we're all in various stages of lockdown or reopening, mask-wearing and physical distancing, it's fascinating to see people a century ago dealing with the same things.
CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on the 1918 pandemic in early March, just before states in the U.S. began coronavirus shutdowns. From some physicians downplaying the Spanish flu as "old-fashioned influenza, nothing more" to people wearing masks in public—or refusing to—there are so many parallels to what we're experiencing now.
The story of the 1918 flu pandemic
Watching this segment now, several months into the pandemic, is really something, isn't it? One thing to be thankful for is that we're not in the middle of a world war while also dealing with coronavirus outbreak, though we do have our own era's social and political upheaval happening at the same time. Let's just all sign a pact to not add an all-out war on top of everything else we've got going on. 2020 has been eventful enough.